Last fall, the International Olympic Committee hosted a video call with activists who were demanding that Beijing be excluded from hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. During the call, activists said the Beijing Olympics would legitimize the Chinese government’s escalating human rights violations.
“You, ladies and gentlemen, have your own responsibilities,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch, chair of the IOC Coordination Committee for the upcoming Winter Games, according to contemporary notes seen by BuzzFeed News. “We have ours.”
Activists pointed to the mass arrests of Muslims in Xinjiang, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and the ongoing repression in Tibet. But IOC officials ignored their questions by claiming that the 2008 Beijing Olympics improved air quality and public transportation, according to notes and interviews with several activists involved.
It’s called the “Olympics of Genocide,” dozens of human rights groups Urged The International Olympic Committee relocates the Games to a different country, with some Comparison The next competition for a competition that was held in Nazi Germany in 1936. The we And Canada They publicly described China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.
In response to the detailed list of questions for this article, the International Olympic Committee said it took into account the views of NGOs on issues including human rights in the Beijing Games. The committee said it had raised these issues with the government and local authorities, who had assured them that they would respect the Olympic Charter.
“Given the diverse participation in the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee must remain neutral on all global political issues,” the International Olympic Committee said in an email. “The award of the Olympic Games to a National Olympic Committee does not mean that the International Olympic Committee conforms to the political structure, social conditions, or human rights standards in their country.”
She said that the International Olympic Committee adheres to the human rights principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter, and “takes this responsibility very seriously.”
“At the same time, the International Olympic Committee does not have the mandate nor the ability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country. This should remain the legitimate role of the governments and intergovernmental organizations concerned,” she said.
The International Olympic Committee has done again and again Confirmed Impartiality in answering questions about the ethics of holding the Games in China. But in the special October 6, 2020 video call, International Olympic Committee officials went further.
The call, which lasted more than an hour and was attended by a group of six activists and five IOC officials, began full of hope but ended in tension, according to some activists on the call.
Officials argued that the Olympics could be a catalyst for better infrastructure. They referred to the 2008 Summer Olympics, arguing that when Beijing hosted that year, it had spurred improvements in infrastructure and air quality.
One official said, “They still have air quality issues, but for the first time, they mentioned a blue sky called” Olympic Blue “because … it was the first time they saw blue air in Beijing.” Notes.
Teng Biao, one of the most well-known human rights lawyers in China, was on call. He told BuzzFeed News that he was not a fan.
“It is very difficult to defend the Chinese government with regard to human rights or the rule of law,” Teng told BuzzFeed News. “So they can only find something like environmental policy.”
“Holding the Olympic Games in Beijing can be seen again as support for the atrocities of the Chinese Communist Party, including the genocide of the Uyghurs,” he said.
Teng lived in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics and said, Like other human rights lawyers, Was banned from travel, detained, and tortured while in police custody prior to the games. He said he had told officials his experience showed that holding the Olympic Games in Beijing again could cause harm. Police could not be reached for comment. But Ting said IOC officials appeared indifferent.
Samaranch, chair of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Committee, said during the call that the Games are an “extraordinary force for good,” bringing together people of different races and religions, “and even political systems, ladies and gentlemen, and even political systems,” according to the observations seen. Powered by BuzzFeed News.
“The world lives under many political systems,” he added. “We cannot say and support one or the other.”
Zumritay Arkin, Program and Advocacy Director at the World Uyghur Congress, told IOC officials in the call that she has relatives who are missing in Xinjiang.. She said officials told her they were sorry to hear it, but the world is a complicated place – memories echoed by the notes as well as by the other activists who attended the meeting.
Arkin told BuzzFeed News that she has severely clashed with International Olympic Committee officials. “Everything has gone bad since 2008,” she said. “We have complete genocide, we have people in concentration camps, and you are telling us the situation has not got any worse?”
“We suffer from these policies,” she added. “You would never think of hosting the Games in North Korea or some other place. Why is China any different?”
Dorje Tsetin, executive director of Students for Free Tibet, said he told officials he and others risked revenge for themselves and their families for publicly protesting the IOC decision. He also noted that many Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans had been arrested or killing During the decades-long government campaign. Violent demonstrations Broke out in Tibet Before the 2008 Olympics, at that time he was president of the International Olympic Committee He said protests It was a “crisis” for the organization. Tsetin said the video call officials did not appear to care.
He said, “I was shocked.” “How should I explain cold faces? They did not even admit to suffering.”
Arkin, Teng and Tseten said discussions with the International Olympic Committee have continued since October, including in a second call this month, but Arkin said nothing has changed. Politicians in the United States And Europe, Including Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyIn recent months, governments have called for a boycott of the games. Critics say this could unfairly punish the athletes. But activists say they see diplomatic boycott as their only option, as the International Olympic Committee is unlikely to move the Games.
Human rights groups are also seeking to pressure companies like Airbnb To sever care relationships With the 2022 games.
Tsetin and others who participated in the protests leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games say that China’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong and abuses in Xinjiang means it is less defensible this time.
“We told them, in the end, this would be a game of genocide,” said Tsetin. “And in history, the International Olympic Committee will go down as part of that.”